Batman/Superman #26 came out last week, another chapter in the seemingly interminable 'The Truth' story arc. I have talked about how this depowered angry Superman isn't for me. I have talked about how Superman hasn't acted the way I want Superman to act. And in this comic, last issue, we saw him eager to rush to action, even when it was ill-advised.
Now this issue, we see a calmer Superman. He realizes his limitations. And he becomes a decent teammate with the Batman Family. And so part of me was happier with this characterization. Outside of one moment, this Superman acted in a decent way. So at least this issue has that going for it.
But the overall arc of 'The Truth' has been pretty rough. And if the end cliffhanger of this issue is the big reveal of this storyline, I will be even more disappointed. But more on that when we reach those pages.
The art here is done by Adrian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, and Cliff Richards and it is lovely. In particular, I adore the Batgirl in this book. She is just wonderfully depicted.
But I know that I am losing patience with this arc based solely on the length of my reviews. When things get brief, when I don't have a lot to say, I think I'm fading.
Last issue, Superman and Batgirl stumbled upon some camp Vandal Savage has established in Siberia. There are humans working as labor, getting uranium from decommissioned nuclear missiles. It is clear that Clark and the Batman Family need to save these people and scuttle this operation.
The heroes approach the team and, after an initial period of distrust, decide to work together. And Superman acts as a sort of leader. This is the weakest we have seen him physically (he bleeds when stabbed by a fork). But this is the best we have seen him.
Everyone has their role.
Batgirl will try to figure out a way to get the people out or stop Vandal from getting there.
Dick will set up new identities so everyone will be safe once they escape.
And Jason will be their battle leader, figuring out what to do if Savage should come back and a scrap needs to happen.
This felt very classic to me, like when the Justice League would split up based on mission needs and team makeup.
Savage arrives at the camp via a teleporting disk. Batgirl is trying to figure out the device. Maybe she can use it send the people away. Or maybe she can use it to send Savage somewhere else should he try to come.
While I like what this Superman is doing in this issue, he does go a bit dark here, wondering if Savage can be teleported into a solid rock. I don't think he is joking here. I think he is fearful. And is contemplating it, even for a second.
But I love Batgirl's response. She is really laughing there. Because to her, Superman wishing someone to be killed is so wrong it is hysterical.
And this temptation is fostered a bit from Jason. Red Hood knows the handful of guns and few bricks of C4 explosive probably can't hurt Savage too much. The heroes have a choice. They can try to subdue Savage, which seems futile, and then watch as Savage kills all the campers. Or they can kill him, by luring him there and blowing up the nukes. Sure it'll be an ecological disaster. But Savage will be gone. And the people will be alive.
Thankfully Batgirl is again there to say just how stupid the idea is. There has to be something better than 'everyone dies' or 'nuke the world'. I love she stands up to Jason calling him stupid. Perfect.
It is this teamwork and this discussion is what I loved about this story. You can only have Superman questioning his ethics and decisions if he is depowered.
During this preparation, the Shadow Demons of Wrath show up. Everyone wades in. And when they see Superman tearing through them like paper mache, they know these things aren't sentient. Kendo blades and bullets are allowed.
But ... when did we learn that?
We have seen people in Metropolis go from human to demon. We have seen Lee infected by the shadows. When did this go from demonized humans to mindless automatons? Like many parts of this nonlinear multi-title storyline, I felt I needed more information. Maybe we learn about this later?
There are a lot of shadow demons. Luckily Superman's wild card, Batman, just happens to arrive at the time of the battle. Even Superman knew he needed more firepower. And with friends at a minimum, he had to call in this frenemy.
But even this irks me a bit. Not Diana. Not the Flash. Not a Green Lantern. The unknown armored Batman. Really?
And, of course, he didn't call Kara, his blood family. Because ....
Well we will never get an answer to this question.
Of course, it does seem odd that Vandal would have so many shadow demons nearby to defend this place. The uranium can't be worth so much to require so many shadow defenders. Why not have Savage's live troops? Why not stay himself? What could be going on? And maybe Savage is trying to hide something in plain sight? Defend only with shadows and only when needed?
Superman realizes that all of Savage's gambits are about stealing energy, from his own, to villain's, to the portable sun. All that energy has to be being prepped for something big. The heroes use the C4 to blow up the snow to see if there is something beneath the surface.
It seems a bit idiotic to me that Savage wouldn't stash the pieces of his anti-Superman plot in a safer, more defended place. Did he think that burying his ill-gotten gains in the snow would be the right move? Of all the places Savage must have around the globe, putting these critical elements in an open space was the best idea?
Okay, he is a stupid super-villain. Maybe he thought it was wise.
But what is it he is hiding??
Oh my god.
It's a nazi gunship.
First off, he buried a portable sun under snow? A sun we know is strong enough to vaporize a city. Am I to guess that the green globe dampened the sun's power so much that it didn't melt the snow?
But next, Savage's grand plan to defeat Superman and rule the world is a giant Nazi gunship? This thing is what he needs the Quarmer's for, what he drained Superman, Atomic Skull and everyone else for? This is what he needs a small sun for? And uranium for?
A Nazi gunship?
Now I feel even more cheated. Talk about a hackneyed plot device. Talk about something that could probably be taken down by just about any super-hero group. This just felt silly. Especially when we have been told that The Truth is supposed to be some deep, mature exploration of who Superman is and what he represents.
I guess I should wait to see what this thing ends up being. But I laughed when I saw this. And not in a good way.
So overall, I like Clark in this issue, a true rarity in The Truth. But the lack of explanation about the demons lack of life, the idea that Savage would leave his major gains buried and virtually undefended, the fact that his coup de grace is a giant Nazi warship made me question the story-telling here.
As I said, the art is very easy on the eyes. The Shadow Demon melee is energetic.